US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital - We Are The Mighty
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US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital

The Syrian Democratic Forces coalition (SDF) launched a new campaign to advance toward the ISIS capital at Raqqa, the SDF commander announced on Twitter today:


 

The SDF is comprised of mostly Kurdish fighters and Syrian militia groups and is the primary partner for the U.S. effort against ISIS. This new offensive has taken them within 40 miles of the ISIS stronghold. U.S. and coalition aircraft are supporting the effort with airstrikes in and around Raqqa.

SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), will not advance on the capital city itself. The Kurdish leadership believes Raqqa should be captured by Arab militias. Thirty thousand SDF troops moved to retake vast areas northwest of the city, but the assault on Raqqa will have to wait until the Arab militias have the strength.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital

BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville reports ISIS fighters are literally digging in for Raqqa’s defense. Earthworks and defensive structures are going up around the area. There are even rumors of an extensive network of tunnels.

Fox News reported a state of emergency was declared by ISIS in Raqqa. The city’s defenders number anywhere from three to five thousand fighters. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russian forces are ready to coordinate with the SDF and the U.S. coalition to provide any support necessary to capture the ISIS capital.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
Kurdish fighters of the YPG, flash victory signs as they sit on their pickup on their way to battle against the Islamic State, near Kezwan mountain, northeast Syria. Drawing on thousands of fighters from Syria’s mix of religious and ethnic groups, a U.S.-backed alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces is the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State group in Syria. (Kurdish YPG photo)

SDF forces celebrated a string of victories against ISIS in recent months, including liberating a number of villages and 4,000 square miles of territory under ISIS control, capturing militants, and cutting off ISIS supply lines into neighboring Iraq. Raqqa fell to ISIS in 2013, the first Syrian provincial capital to fall to forces in open rebellion against the Asad regime in Damascus.

 

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This is what happens when the world’s best fighter jets face off against each other

Next-generation fighter jets, simulated aerial combat, and some of the best pilots from the US, British, and French air forces – no, this isn’t a scene from the next Hollywood blockbuster. It’s the latest combined exercise testing pilots’ ability to operate, communicate and dominate in a combat environment.


Called “Atlantic Trident,” this month-long exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, focused on anti-access and aerial-denial missions, which were meant to place the US, British, and French pilots in situations that tested their limits and capabilities.

“This exercise is great because it brings our best and some of our allies best fighters together to train and learn from each other in a very challenging environment,” said Col. Pete Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander. “It’s also a great way to test the capabilities of these advanced aircraft.”

The advanced aircraft participating included the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 Lightning II, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Dassault Rafale – all of which bring a lot of capabilities to the fight. The aircraft were supported by USAF Air Combat Command E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft and Air Mobility Command KC-10 Extender refueling aircraft.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard

According to Lockheed Martin, the Raptor’s unique combination of advanced stealth, supercruise, advanced maneuverability, and integrated avionics allow it to “kick down the door,” and then follow up with 24-hour stealth operations and freedom of movement for all follow-on forces – fully leveraging the Raptor’s technological advantages.

The F-35, meanwhile, is no slouch, either. The F-35 combines fifth generation fighter aircraft characteristics — advanced stealth, integrated avionics, sensor fusion and superior logistics support — with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history. This means the Lightning II can collect and share battlespace data with other friendly aircraft and commanders on the ground and at sea.

“The F-35 brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability, and adaptability to joint and combined operations,” said Maj. Mike Krestyn, an F-35 pilot with the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital

Pilots of both the F-22 and F-35 refer to their jets as aerial “quarterbacks,” capable of controlling an airspace by locating, identifying and sharing the location of enemy threats within a battlespace.

Then, allied aircraft like the Typhoon and Rafale can use their advanced weaponry to eliminate these threats.

All of these advanced aircraft provide lethality never before seen in aerial combat, and their pilots training and flying together enhances tactics, ensures coalition teams are on the same page and strengthens relationships.

“The Air Force and our partners must seek opportunities to develop, expand and sustain relationships wherever possible,” said Heidi Grant, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs. “This enables us to amplify our collective strengths and improves our ability to confront shared challenges.”

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

 

From the pilots’ viewpoint, this is also a matter of “training like we fight.”

“We won’t go to war without our allies,” said Capt. Nichole Stilwell, a T-38 pilot with the 71st Fighter Training Squadron. “So we have to train together to make sure we get the most out of our capabilities.”

The Human Element

But, none of these capabilities mean anything without one crucial component.

“People,” Fesler said. “It doesn’t matter how advanced an aircraft is if we don’t have quality people flying and fixing them.”

It’s easy to get distracted by the sleek aircraft and their state-of-the-art capabilities, but this shouldn’t take away from how important the human element still is to air operations, he added.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“There is so much more to this than simply flying an advanced jet and shooting stuff,” Fesler said. “There are people on the ground making sure these planes fly, people in support functions making sure missions happen and go smoothly, and there are people making sure pilots receive the training they need to be effective.”

So, exercises like this are really all about people – training them, developing them, testing them – and relationship building, he added.

Throughout the exercise, US, British and French pilots planned, flew and evaluated missions together, working side-by-side to develop tactics and talk about lessons learned from each day’s flights.

“This type of training is invaluable,” said Royal Air Force Wing Cmdr. Chris Hoyle, 1 (Fighter) Squadron. “It really places a premium on people and relationships, which both are very important to our success as allies.”

These bonds and friendships made at Atlantic Trident can also carry over into other operations.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“This is a great foundation for us to build on,” Hoyle said. “Some of the US or French people I’ve met, or some my guys have met, can really create great opportunities in the future. If I need something, I can pick up the phone and call … and then the relationships we started here can really pay off down the road.”

Still, as pilots of each aircraft are quick to point out, a conversation about people can’t happen without talking about maintainers.

“We simply borrow the jets for a little while, the maintainers own them,” said Krestyn. “They fix them and care for them and then they let us use them.” This sentiment is echoed by Hoyle.

“As pilots, we have the easy part,” he said. “We fly the plane, but it’s the maintainers and support personnel who make everything happen. It doesn’t matter how advanced a jet is, if no one fixes it or makes sure it’s able to take off and accomplish the mission, then it’s a useless piece of equipment.”

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Sharpening the Sword

Once these advanced fighters do get in the air, testing them and their pilots is still important. This is where the adversary squadrons come in.

Made up of T-38s from Langley and F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, these “adversaries” acted as enemy combatants during the exercise to test friendly force’s air-to-air abilities.

Flying outdated, past-their-prime trainer jets against the most technologically superior fighters in the world may seem futile, but the adversary pilots have a different outlook.

“I think of it as our sword is very sharp, we just help make it sharper,” Stilwell said. “We make pilots adapt their tactics, we make them think and we try to test them as much as possible.”

At the end of the day, though, exercises like Atlantic Trident do more than give pilots time behind the stick. These exercises are providing relevant, realistic training so that when pilots do experience stressful combat situations for the first time, they are prepared.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“Air superiority is not an American birthright,” said Gen. David Goldfien, Air Force Chief of Staff. “It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain.”

Air superiority doesn’t just mean having the most technologically sophisticated aircraft in the world. It also means having highly trained and experienced pilots to fly them.

Working together also helps each of the players learn to speak the same language – that of winning.

“Really, the goal of exercises like this is to train and learn together so that on day one of a future conflict, we dominate,” Fesler said.

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This is what makes a ‘Fister’ so deadly

Nestled inside infantry units moving against the enemy is often a single artilleryman who is arguably one of the most lethal fighters on the battlefield — the forward observer.


These soldiers, usually assigned to a Forward Support Team (the FiST), are known as “FiSTers” and are the eyes and ears for naval artillery and artillery gun lines across the world.

The fisters carry inside their helmets knowledge of every gun capable of reaching their areas of operation, including how fast the weapon can fire, what kinds of rounds it has at its disposal, and what effects those rounds have on targets.

They use this knowledge to support the infantry and other maneuver units. When the friendly element finds and engages the enemy, the fister gets to work figuring out how to best bring artillery to bear.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
That’s the smile of an artilleryman about to jump into combat with world-class infantry and then blow up everything stupid enough to get within range. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman Kevin Sommer Giron)

Often, this involves getting the machine gunners and riflemen to corral the enemy into a tight box that can easily be hit with airburst artillery, causing shrapnel to rain down on the enemy dismounts.

If enemy armored vehicles are rolling towards the line, the forward observers can call down specific rounds for penetrating a tank’s top turret armor or for creating a smoke screen to block friendly vehicles from view.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
This thing shoots what the fisters tell it to. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

Many observers go through training to learn how to best use weapons deployed from helicopters, jets, and other aerial platforms. This allows them to start targeting enemies with hellfire missiles and the 30mm cannons of A-10s and AH-64s.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
The Apache can engage targets on its own, but it listens to calls from fisters on the ground, too. (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

Marine observers and Army observers trained in joint fires can call for help from naval ships. While the Navy has decommissioned its massive battleships, there are still plenty of cruisers and destroyers packing missiles and 5-inch guns that are pretty useful for troops ashore.

It’s the forward observers that get those missiles and shells on target.

Forward observers direct the fires of all the big guns that can’t see their targets. And that’s what makes them so lethal.

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Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict

The Syrian government has asked Iran to take over the supervision and payroll of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a government source and a news report.


The pro-opposition Syrian news website Zaman Al Wasel reported that it obtained a Syrian defense ministry document saying the Assad regime has approved a plan to give Iran responsibility for paying foreign fighters – mostly Shi’ites of varying nationalities. Shi’ite fighters mostly are paid in cash from Iran, the Syrian government and coffers of the Lebanese-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to analysts.

Iran would foot the bill alone in the future, a Syrian official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, confirming the Al Wasel report.

“The number of Shia militia has increased dramatically during the last two months,” the official said. “While a big part of these militia were recruited by Iran, a relatively big part was recruited by the Syrian government directly. We are speaking about more than 50,000 militants from different nationalities. The Syrian government requested that Iran provide for all of the mentioned militias.”

The document from Al Wasel put the number of fighters to be paid at 88,733 — a figure analysts say is exaggerated. They estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Lebanon’s Tehran-affiliated Shiite militia Hezbollah and assorted Shiite militia made up of renegade Pakistanis, central Asians and other nationalities. Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of Iran’s elite Quds Force or other elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units have been killed fighting in Syria.

Related: Russia denies funding the Taliban

Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi’ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has been a major backer of the Syrian regime in its war with rebel groups across the country, at first sending advisers, then forces from the IRGC and expanding far beyond the shrine area.

Iran has long expressed a desire to command a unified army in the region, particularly in Syria, and its growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals. In an interview with the Mashregh news agency last August, Mohammad Ali Falaki, an IRGC leader, announced formation of a unified army in Syria which appears to have come to loose fruition.

“It would hardly be abnormal for Iran’s IRGC to be controlling yet more Shia jihadists,” said Talha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute.

In the long run, the formation of a unified army in Syria under Tehran supervision appears very practical, analysts say.

“It seems plausible that the Syrian government shift the responsibility for management and organization of the militias, especially where financial burden is concerned,” said Rasool Nafisi, a Middle East affairs expert in Washington.

Asserting its military prowess would help Iran push its political agenda in the region, some analysts believe.

“The bigger and more advanced army you control, the stronger voice you have,” said Daryoush Babak, a Washington-based retired Iranian military adviser.

But unifying Assad supporters under Tehran’s umbrella could worsen sectarian conflict in the region between Shi’ites and Sunni, analysts say.

Iran is looking for any chance to increase its influence and gain an upper hand against Saudi Arabia, its strongest rival in the war of minds and hearts, analysts say. Saudi Arabia and Iran support rival groups in Syria’s civil war. And In a speech in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump accused Tehran of contributing to instability in the region.

“Tehran and Riyadh … keep contradicting each other to prove whose ideology leads the region,” said Nafisi.

While Syria has relied on Iran militarily in the fight against rebels and Islamic State, it’s unlikely to grant Tehran a controlling foothold in the country, analysts say.

“In Syria, it is not likely to happen as long as the Assad regime harbors ambitions of regaining sovereignty rather than being reduced to an Iranian protectorate,” said Alfoneh.

VOA’s Noor Zahid contributed to this report.

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Prince Harry deploys with Team Rubicon UK

Team Rubicon launched what they call “Operation Nirman,” in mid-March 2016. The mission is to rebuild a school and restore services in areas of Central Nepal damaged by last year’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Team Rubicon members from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany deployed to assist with Nirman. They will also receive help from the Prince of Wales.


Prince Harry is in the country on an official tour to see the many initiatives supporting the people of Nepal in the wake of the earthquake’s widespread destruction. After his official tour ends, the prince, himself an Afghan War veteran, will remain in Nepal with Team Rubicon on their relief efforts.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
Harry visits 4-year-old Biplov Puri in the Kanti Childrens Hospital in Nepal. (Kensington Palace photo)

The 31-year-old royal is known for his dedication to veterans from all countries and  his support for tackling the challenges they face. He runs  the Endeavor Fund with his brother, Prince William and his wife, Princess Catherine. Endeavor Fund is a UK-based nonprofit to help service members overcome these challenges while “keeping Armed Forces issues in the public consciousness.”

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
Prince Harry on patrol through the deserted town of Garmisir close to FOB Delhi, Helmand, Afghanistan in 2008.

Prince Harry will be embedded with a group of Team Rubicon volunteers in a remote village to help with the reconstruction of the new school. The team will trek into the mountains of Central Nepal with all the necessary equipment to assist the local community in repairing and rebuilding their school.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
Harry while visiting Leorani, a village in Central Nepal, as he made his way through the mountains to rendezvous with Team Rubicon UK. (Kensington Palace photo)

Since the earthquake struck, students have been taking their classes in makeshift classrooms made of poles, tarps, and tin sheets. These temporary facilities will provide little defense against the difficult weather conditions in the rainy season to come.

“The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave,” Prince Harry said. “The team I’m joining will be working with the community to rebuild a school damaged in the earthquake. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to do my small bit to help.”

Team Rubicon UK was formed in response to the Nepal earthquake. General Sir Nick Parker, former Commander in Chief of the UK Land Forces and now Chairman of Team Rubicon UK, called for veterans in the United Kingdom to volunteer their time and skills in the immediate aftermath. A team quickly joined their Team Rubicon USA counterparts to provide medical aid, search and rescue support, and translation assistance in several remote regions of Nepal.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
Former British Army gunner Christopher Lyon cleans up a local playground in Shermathang, Sinduhupalchok. (Team Rubicon photo)

By the end of the 2015, Team Rubicon UK responded to calls for help after floods in Cumbria and Yorkshire, as well as undertaking rebuilding projects in Nepal and the Philippines.

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9 things we miss from our Afghanistan deployments

With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.


Related: 7 items every Marine needs before deploying

Thanks to the Facebook page “Bring the Sangin Boys Back” for contributing.

1. Afghan naan bread

Regardless of the rumors how the bread is pressed (by Afghans’ feet) it was delicious.

Here they’re just mixing the bread. (image via Giphy)

2. Band of Brothers

The lifelong friends you made in combat are priceless, and there’s nothing else like it.

Yup. (images via Giphy)

3. Awesome nights

With a lack of electricity, there was no artificial illumination to spoil the night sky, it made the stars pop even more.

Not an Afghan night sky, but you get the point. (images via Giphy)

4. Low responsibility

You went on patrol, pulled some time on post, worked out, slept and…pretty much that’s about it.

woke right up when sh*t went down. (images via Giphy)

5. You got to blow sh*t up  

The best part of the job while serving in the infantry was delivering the ordnance.

3/5 Get Some! (image via Giphy)

6. Firefights

Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.

It was that fun. (images via Giphy)

7. Getting jacked

When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.

1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)

8. Movie night

Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.

And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really.  (images via Giphy)

Also Read: How to make a movie theater with your smartphone on deployment 

9. Making memories

Although you we experienced some sh*tty times, nothing beats looking back and remembering the good ones while having a beer with your boys.

To the good times! (image via Giphy)

Bonus: The emotional homecomings

Leaving your family to deploy sucks, but coming home to them — priceless.

We salute all those who serve. Thank you! (images via Giphy) WATM wishes everyone to stay safe and watch your six. That is all.

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How the military can help if California’s Oroville Dam bursts

The Defense Department stands ready to assist in operations surrounding a failing dam in northern California, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters today.


Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said DoD officials are watching closely as the dam erodes.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
Soldiers assigned to the California National Guard’s 2632nd Transportation Company prepare to move out to Paradise, Chico and Nevada County in California to bring cots and blankets to temporary shelters set up for residents who evacuated their homes as the Oroville Dam spillway threatened to fail, Feb. 13, 2017. The California Department of Public Health supplied the blankets and cots. (California National Guard photo)

“The dam is failing, and evacuation orders have been given to close to 200,000 people in the area,” he said. “While the [water] depths are reported to be decreasing, we do note that rain is expected later this week.”

DoD is in touch with the California National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the commander of U.S. Northern Command, Davis said. Northcom provides command and control of Defense Department homeland defense efforts and coordinates defense support of civil authorities.

“We’ve dispatched liaison officers to the state emergency operations center, and are prepared to deploy any Title 10 capabilities – federal military – quickly if requested,” Davis noted, adding that the entire California National Guard, which comprises about 23,000 service members, is on alert status.

FEMA and DoD coordinating officials stand by to put state and federal asset requests into action as they arise, he said.

“If the dam should break, there are FEMA, California National Guard and DoD personnel who will all be prepared to respond,” the Pentagon spokesman told reporters. “We are leaning forward and are ready to assist if needed.”

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
A family gets settled into an emergency shelter following the Oroville spillway evacuation notice at Beale Air Force Base, California, Feb. 13, 2017. Beale is providing evacuees with shelter, food, and water. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

Types of help DoD is prepared to provide include aviation, airborne imagery and water rescue — both swift water and still water — as well as mass care and shelter assistance, he added.

DoD officials are trying to anticipate such requests before they come, Davis said, and is keeping a dialogue open to quickly get its forces ready should they be needed.

“We recognize that one of our most solemn duties is to assist the American people in their greatest time of need,” the captain said. “While the state, first and foremost, has the responsibility for doing that, there’s a federal element, should they need it, which is ready to respond quickly.”

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8 awful songs that make combat camera troops want to die

You let us tag along on your convoy. You let us raid a house in the stack. You watched our ass while our head was in a camera viewfinder. You even let us eat your food. So when you ask us for some of the footage of the unit in action we’re happy to oblige.


US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
You see how combat camera has to face the opposite direction of where all the grunts are looking? We kinda owe you one for stopping whatever comes that way.

When you want us to make a music video of it, no problem, even though we know using copyrighted music is illegal. We want you to keep letting us roll with you…and for you to keep saving our asses.

But then one of your officers tells us to use one of these eight songs and it makes us die inside.

1. Drowning Pool — “Bodies”

This is by far the most overused song ever paired with combat camera footage (with “Soldiers” a close second). And it’s not just commanders asking combat camera to do this. Civilians do this ad nauseam.

That video has more than a million views. A MILLION. I don’t understand the enduring popularity of this song, but if there’s a better or more obvious song about killing a lot of people, I haven’t heard it.

2. Saliva — “Click Click Boom”

A full 20 percent of YouTube is probably the same video footage of the military with this Saliva song — this Saliva song about how great the lead singer’s childhood was and how totally awesome it is that he’s on the radio now.

I wish Beavis and Butthead were around to rip on this band. Still, it does make it pretty easy to edit a video fast, even if I feel like a complete hack afterward.

3. Outkast — “B.O.B.”

Civilians also like to make videos with this song. Which is understandable but, except for the title “Bombs Over Baghdad,” it’s not really about anything military related.

The only lyric the casual listener probably understands for most of the song is “Bombs Over Baghdad,” so when you send it to your mom, she gets the point of the video, and can’t really hear about the struggles of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s pre-stardom struggle.

4. Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott — “Hero”

The singers from Nickelback AND Saliva. Enough said. Good lord this song was so big in 2002-2003. You’ll be just as proud of a video featuring you clearing houses to this song as you are your trucker hat collection and your flip phone.

This song was supposed to be an uplifting anthem for the first Spider-Man movie but it’s the most depressing song I’ve ever been asked to use in any video ever. I bet if you asked Kirsten Dunst what the low point of her career was, it would be that she didn’t have the choice to be excluded from this music video.

5. P.O.D. — “Boom”

Another band who sings about how they’re a band now. If you haven’t noticed the trend, guitar riffs and shouting “boom” were super popular in the early 2000s.

P.O.D. is the MySpace of metal. They’re still around but no one knows why.

6. Toby Keith — “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”

This song is so cheesy, I’m actually surprised Chad Kroeger didn’t write it, but maybe there are some things even Pop Rock Jesus won’t do. Some of you might think this song is awesome but I doubt you’d play it at a party in front of all your friends.

Also Toby Keith got more awards and plaques from military units just for singing this song than some people got for actually enlisting after 9/11.

7. Godsmack — “I Stand Alone”

Forget for a moment that the frontman sounds like Adam Sandler’s impression of Eddie Vedder. This song’s lyrics read like they were translated from Nepali by Google Translate. Also, unless your unit is the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae (it isn’t), you definitely don’t stand alone.

8. AC/DC — “Thunderstruck”

Ok, this isn’t an awful song. I mean, I get why you might want six minutes of your squadron or platoon blowing things up to AC/DC. But, aside from the opening minute and a half or so, this is could be any AC/DC song. All AC/DC songs sound like this. That’s why we love them.

Special Award:

Nazareth — Hair of the Dog

To be honest, this request only happened once, but do you really think any young Marine is going to love watching themselves on a dismounted patrol to this song?

Why not just have me choose something from Chicago’s greatest hits? If I gave any grunt a music video of themselves with this song, they’d beat my Air Force ass so hard.

There’s no joke here, I’d just get my ass kicked.

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Ride service’s military hiring program hits 50,000 drivers

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
(Photo courtesy of Uber)


In 2014 the ride service Uber launched “Uber Military,” a veteran hiring initiative designed to get transitioning service members interested in becoming a “partner,” as the company calls its drivers. Since that time Uber has signed up more than 50,000 veterans as drivers.

As a result of the milestone, Uber just announced that they are donating $1 million dollars to a host of veteran charities including the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Homes for our Troops.

“Over the past 18 months, we’ve crisscrossed the country to hear the stories of servicemembers and veterans,” Uber’s Emil Michael wrote in a company blog post. “Everywhere we go, they tell us that they want opportunities to make money on their own terms and set their own schedules. We’re thrilled to be able to give more servicemembers and veterans the on-demand work opportunities they’ve been asking for.”

The charities were picked by the Uber Military Advisory Board, an impressive collection of veterans that includes former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen (who’s also on WATM’s Board of Directors).

There are other elements to the Uber Military initiative beyond a big donation to military charities. Uber has incentivized drivers to begin or end a ride on military installations by paying higher rates for those trips. The company has also partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to create awareness about the perils of driving while intoxicated, particularly in military communities that tend to be spread out and require the use of cars to get around.

The Uber Military promotional campaigns are currently centered around the big military populations in California, Texas, and Florida, but the company wants to encourage veterans nationwide to sign up to be drivers.

Kia Hamel is a Navy vet as well as a Navy spouse. Her husband is stationed in Hampton Roads as the executive officer of an amphibious ship, and she has remained in the DC Metro region to keep working as a paralegal while she pursues her master’s degree. Kia has a 4th-grader at home and a son nearby who’s attending college. She first heard about Uber through an email from a third-party employment company, and almost on a whim she clicked on the company’s site link.

“The first thing I noticed was that the drivers didn’t fit the classic cabbie profile,” Hamel says. “I filled out the forms and two weeks later I downloaded the partner app and I was an Uber driver.”

Before Hamel got her part-time job with the law firm, she was driving more than 40 hours a week. “You can make a living wage,” she says. Now she drives when her schedule allows — in the morning during rush hour or on weekends. “For me it’s all about the flexibility.”

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Thank You | UberMILITARYTo the veterans and military family members who have chosen to hit the road with us—thank you. ubr.to/50k

Posted by Uber on Thursday, April 7, 2016

 

Todd Bowers, Marine veteran and Uber’s director of military outreach, points out that Uber’s military vet drivers have driven in 175 cities in all 50 states and that their combined trip distance to date adds up to 78,309,082 miles.

As Bowers travels around the country trying to create awareness in military communities and with veterans everywhere, he’s always amazed at the wide range of profiles of those driving with Uber. “I went to an MBA program a couple of days ago and asked if any of them had driven for Uber, and five officers in the classroom raised their hands,” Bowers says.

“We understand our utility in the veteran employment timeline,” Bowers says. “We’re probably not anyone’s ‘forever’ job, but we’re a great way for vets to earn income when they’re in transition or in need of a part-time job that has max flexibility.”

Here’s some more at-a-glance data:

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital

If you’re a military veteran or active duty servicemember who wants to know more about how to get started as an Uber driver go here.

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The Pentagon is considering sending 1,000 more troops to Syria

The Pentagon is considering sending an additional 1,000 conventional troops over the next few weeks into Syria, ahead of an upcoming offensive against the ISIS capital of Raqqa.


The troops would likely come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — currently on its way to the region — and the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which recently made its way to Kuwait, according to a report in The Washington Post by TM Gibbons-Neff.

The proposed increase in conventional forces would follow similar deployments in recent weeks that have supplemented special operations forces, of which roughly 500 have been on the ground for some time.

Related: Chinese troops are reportedly patrolling in Afghanistan

A convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria last week to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

The Ranger deployment was followed soon after by a contingent of US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment, which left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, told Business Insider previously that the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

Also read: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

There is also additional risk from the US’ partnership with Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG, or People’s Protection Units. Though the Pentagon seems to believe the YPG would be the most effective force in the Raqqa fight, the unit is considered a terrorist group by Turkey.

Turkey has so far refused to compromise, insisting the US use a different Syrian rebel group, Reuters reported.

“Our soldiers will not be fighting together with people who shot us and killed our soldiers and are trying to kill us,” one senior Turkish security official, briefed on recent meetings between Turkish and U.S. strategists, told Reuters.

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A Marine is getting closer to becoming the first female infantry officer

A female officer has neared the halfway mark of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course – further than previous women have progressed.


According to a report in the Marine Corps Times, the unidentified officer has roughly eight weeks left. Two female Marine officers have graduated the Army artillery course, and one had graduated the Army’s armor course. As many as 248 women are in ground combat units that were once restricted to men only as of July 19, 2017.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
A student with Infantry Officer Course speaks to role-players at Range 220, the Combat Center’s largest military operations on urbanized terrain facility, Sept. 22, 2016, as part of Exercise Talon Reach. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Eric Clayton/Released)

“These are successes that never seem to get out in the press,” Gen. Glenn Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps said during a media roundtable.

The event also touched on what the Marine Corps Times report described as measures to “eliminate attitudes” that lead to the investigation of a Facebook group known as Marines United.

The last woman to attend the course was dropped after 12 days for failing to complete two conditioning hikes. The Washington Post reported 29 women had tried and failed to complete the very difficult course.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
2nd Lt. Anthony Pandolfi, student, Infantry Officers Course 2-15, posts security after entering Range 220 during exercise Talon Reach V aboard the Combat Center, March 25, 2015. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Thomas Mudd/Released)

The opening of direct ground combat roles to women was announced in 2012, but the effort turned controversial in 2015 when then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that 69 percent of the tasks were performed more efficiently by all-male units.

That lead to a dust-up with Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, who received the Navy Cross for heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

No women have yet entered Marine Special Operations Command’s combat elements, but some are in support units. The first woman to try to complete SEAL training as an officer dropped out after a week, according to a report by DailyWire.com, which noted another female sailor is training to be a Special Warfare Combatant Craft crewman.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., waves at the boom operator after a mid-air refueling during Red Flag 16-3 over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., July 27, 2016. Red Flag is a realistic combat exercise involving multiple military branches conducting training operations on the 15,000-square-mile test and training range.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum

ARMY:

A C-130H Hercules, from the 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, Ohio, takes off to perform an airdrop during exercise Slovak Warthog, July 27, 2016, at Sliač Air Base, Slovakia. Members of the U.S. and Slovak armed forces joined together for the exercise to demonstrate joint operations with a variety of aircraft.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. William Hopper

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 101st Airborne Brigade, fire a Javelin Anti-Tank Missile system during a large-scale platoon live-fire exercise at Fort Campbell, Ky., July 29, 2016.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Army photo

Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provide cover during a combined arms live fire exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 8, 2016.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Burkhart

NAVY:

ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 8, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Dakotah Emmerth, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike), guides an E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 onto the catapult. Ike and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (Aug. 9, 2016) Lt. Erik Dippold, a Navy pilot assigned to EA-18G Growler Airborne Electronic Attack Aircraft with Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133 is welcomed home by his wife and daughter at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. VAQ-133 conducted an eight-month, regularly scheduled, 7th Fleet deployment aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) supporting stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Montemarano

MARINE CORPS:

Lance Cpl. Ryley Sweet drives an assault amphibious vehicle onto amphibious assault ship USS San Diego, off the coast of Hawaii. The Marines are participating in the Rim of the Pacific 2016, a multinational military exercise, from June 29 to Aug. 8 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Giannetti

A Marine with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provides cover fire for his squad during the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Integrated Experiment (MIX-16) at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., August 5, 2016. The experiment was conducted to test new gear and assess its capabilities for potential future use. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL) identifies possible challenges of the future, develops new warfighting concepts, and tests new ideas to help develop equipment that meets the challenges of the future operating environment.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Julien Rodarte

COAST GUARD:

Justin Daulman, a parking assistant, took this photo of CG-2301 painted in retro colors in celebration of 100 years in Coast Guard aviation. Photo taken at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on July 30, 2016.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Coast Guard photo

The Coast Guard’s first production MH-60T “Jayhawk” helicopter (tail number CG 6028) completed its first search and rescue operation off the North Carolina coast OTD in 2009.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Two Israeli F-35 “Adirs” fly in formation and display the U.S. and Israeli flags after receiving fuel from a Tennessee Air National Guard KC-135, Dec, 6, 2016. The U.S. and Israel have a military relationship built on trust developed through decades of cooperation.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erik D. Anthony

Airmen, assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing, perform diagnostic checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Dec. 3, 2016. Their particular F-15E was gearing up to deploy to the annual Checkered Flag exercise hosted by Tyndall AFB. Checkered Flag is a large-force exercise that gives a large number of legacy and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training together in a simulated deployed environment.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Connor Marth

ARMY:

U.S. Soldiers assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division fire a M777 A2 Howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces at Platoon Assembly Area 14, Iraq, Dec. 7, 2016. Charlie Battery conducted the fire mission in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht

Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade fire a ZU-23-2 towed antiaircraft weapon before conducting an air assault mission in conjunction with a situational training exercise led by Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Nov. 28, 2016 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. This training is part of their 55-day rotation with the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is focused on helping to develop an enduring and sustainable training capacity within Ukraine.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr

NAVY:

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 11, 2016) Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexis Rey, from Stratford, Conn., conducts pre-flight checks on an EA-18G Growler assigned to the Zappers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Kledzik

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 10, 2016) Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Parrish, from Apopka, Fla., signals to the pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sidewinders of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine participates in a field training exercise during Exercise Iron Sword 16 in Rukla Training Area, Lithuania, Nov. 29, 2016. Iron Sword is an annual, multinational defense exercise involving 11 NATO allies training to increase combined infantry capabilities and forge relationships.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kirstin Merrimarahajara

Combat cargo Marines grab a short nap in the well deck of USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) December 1, 2016 before the ship prepares to receive amphibious craft during Amphibious Ready Group, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise off the coast of Onslow Beach, North Carolina. The Marines worked nearly 20 hours the previous day on-loading and securing equipment and vehicles to Carter Hall. These Marines were assigned the combat cargo billet as a part of ship taxes and come from a myriad of military occupational specialties native to the Marine units aboard the ship.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan

COAST GUARD:

An aircrew aboard a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepares to take the load of a 14,000 pound buoy that washed ashore just south of the entrance to Tillamook Bay, in Garibaldi, Ore., Dec. 12, 2016. The Army aircrew assisted the Coast Guard in recovering the beached buoy that normally marks the navigable channel into Tillamook Bay.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read

Coast Guard Cutter Munro crewmembers render honors to the national ensign during colors at an acceptance ceremony for the Munro on December 16, 2016 on the ship’s flight deck at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Travis Magee

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